Her Expat Life had the pleasure of speaking to Ronna Porter, Founder of Justa Marketing in Bavaria,
Southern Germany. This Scottish Islander has spent half her life outside her homeland, and is
developing a new business supporting expat women – especially young mothers – to thrive.
1: Congratulations on developing 'Connected & Fulfilled Mamas Overseas' – Tell us more about this
new venture and the biggest challenges you faced, and how did you overcome them?
Thank you! I’ve been bouncing around Europe since my early 20s. And while living overseas has
been an international adventure, the greatest challenge has been learning to thrive on constant change through each stage of life, take advantage of each opportunity, ride out each disappointment. It’s always about doing your best for the people in your life, ideally without completely sacrificing your own dreams – as many mothers do. You need to invest in friendship to survive. It takes a village as they say …
With this hindsight, I want to make it easier for young migrant and expat women to prioritise long-
term friendship, connection, and fulfilment as an antidote to the pain, shame, and frustration of
loneliness and social isolation that many of us suffer at some point.
Under the ‘Liberated Islander’ brand, I’m developing resources supporting expat women. This starts
now with a Facebook private group, and in spring 2023, a book and digital course – all called
'Connected &Fulfilled Mamas Overseas.'
2: You have had an incredible and inspiring career! What has been the most impactful work you have
done over your career?
From my perspective, it was the chance to help my clients tell stories every day of their greatest
impact. Touring Ontario in Canada with European aerospace journalists and seeing the manipulation
arm of the International Space Station up close. Writing about how optical sensors on the NASA
Perseverance Rover enable it to move around and analyse rock samples. Explaining how their
supercomputing power enabled the decoding of the human genome, or their spectral sensors
underpinned accessible, fast and reliable virus testing using a technology better known for pregnancy
testing. It’s been quite a ride .. but of course that’s only part of the story. Each of us plays several roles
simultaneously. The real personal impact is how we connect with the people around us, in every walk
and stage of life. We need to be able to transfer what we learn from one arena into all the others. I
believe this is the key to a fulfilled life I want to share my experience with others.
3: You have worn many hats over the years from 'single gal’ in France & Switzerland, and – in
Germany – a trailing spouse, stay-at-home mother, international tech marketer, and small business
founder? What did you learn from each of these stages in your life?
I read in a recent report that of the partners of international employees:
76% are women
70% are aged 25-44
92% are married
29% have a Bachelor’s degree,
53% have a Master’s degree or postgraduate diploma, and 6%
have a Doctorate/PhD
90% were in some form of employment before moving to the host country
Yet only 47% were in some form of employment in the host country
Now there are many possible reasons for this last statistic. But to answer your question, I was one of
these people and I learned that it was incredibly difficult – especially for mothers like me who wanted to work – to find a flexible way to do that. I wasn’t just isolated by maternal commitments and
geography, but also by lack of access to a work network (in the days before LinkedIn!) The odds can
be stacked against you: employer expectations, language, childcare, support network, and more. Not
to mention our own limiting beliefs and those of our partner.
And I say that as someone who has always had the legal right to work and was lucky enough to find a
great job only three months after moving to Germany in my early 30s. So, you need to get resourceful, but again it helps to have an active network of people in your court. The good news: today it is much easier to set up a business or find fulfilling projects due to technology and social changes. But as a group you need to help each other to succeed – no one understands the challenges you face better.
4: What is your advice for aspiring women who want to advance their careers or start a business?
Just do it. I don’t mean to be flippant. It’s just that life is too short not to decide what you want and
then go for it. And it is too long to regret what you failed to do! Surround yourself – if not
geographically at least virtually – with people who support your dreams. Find kindred spirits who can
guide you on your journey. Get a coach. Find a partner to share your success with – it’s more fun. But
you need to be persistent, there will be good days and bad days. Don’t give up just before you
succeed. It’s easy to do, and a great shame when it happens (I have the scars!)
5: What are your top tips for women looking to relocate overseas?
Go into it with your eyes wide open. It sounds exciting – and it is! But be prepared – don’t take the
clichés for granted. Treat it like a negotiation – what are you willing to sacrifice, what not?
You need to know what you want to get out of it – imagine what success will look like 12 months from now. Then use that as your action plan. Speak to people who have already experienced what you want to do. If you are lucky, you can learn from their mistakes, so you can avoid making the same ones. Read some of the quotes in the report I shared – its enlightening!
6: What advice do you have for female digital nomads in building new relationships, a support system abroad and in the workplace?
I think you must take your lead from the culture around you. This can make a huge difference. Take a
little time to observe how things are done in the country, town or workplace. How do you best fit into
the community? Then try to serve others – as a neighbour, a friend, an employee or an employer, a
business owner, a family member – or whatever. You must be willing to give before you can hope to
get. My other recommendation is to focus on quality rather than quantity of relationships. As people
come and go in your life, you’ll be pleased that you invested the extra effort with your best matches in the ‘compounding interest’ of their friendships wherever you go next.
7: Can you tell us more about a time you travelled/lived the digital nomadic lifestyle?
I’ve had the opportunity and tools to be a digital nomad most of my career – you just need a phone,
laptop, and network, right? Few of my roles have been 100% location dependent, either because I
negotiated it that way (working with enterprises), hot-seated at client locations (as an employed
consultant), or I was running my own business and setting my own rules.
Have I fully exploited the opportunity? Not enough. Mainly because until recently I had children at
home and a husband that spends much of his time working away.
I might have chosen differently today. And certainly, now that I’m an ‘empty nester’ – my youngest is
following in my footsteps and now doing a gap year abroad – so I’m really looking forward to more
flexibility. Anything is possible today.
8: What are the benefits and challenges you've faced as a business owner?
Germany has been a great place to start a business. I knew for some time that the small boutique PR
agency in Munich that I worked at until 2016 would close. That gave me time to build a client base,
put together a business plan and – because I had been a long-term taxpayer and had been made
redundant – get a small business start grant from the Government. So, the country’s
Kleinunternehmen (small business) culture has been a real benefit. As has my sweet spot of:
technology/engineering focus, native-English, high-level international marketing and communication
expertise in a region where this combination of skills is at a premium.
And the challenges? All the usual ones, plus all the complications of running a business in a country
known for its bureaucracy – and in German.
9: What do you do in your spare time?
I’m an avid reader. I ‘collect’ authors and love how great storytelling can transport you across
distance and time. Give you a window on a world you might not otherwise ever see. I find it so
inspiring. It’s also one of the best ways to collect new skills and investigate new interests.
When I don’t have my nose in a book, I love walking outside in nature – often with our dog, Lord,
who we adopted from Romania. I started watercolour painting this year and have taken to carrying a
sketch book around with me on my travels to stay creative and observant. I can recommend it as a
10: Tell us what life was like in Switzerland as a graduate recruit at a United Nations agency.
I remember meeting a school friend on the ferry to the Island of Bute in Scotland on a visit home and
when I told her what I was doing she said: “How did you get a job like that?” It was unlikely for me to
go from a struggling family in a small island community to one of the centres of international
bureaucracy straight after my business degree in Edinburgh.
I started work without ever taking a flight – I took the bus to Geneva! Before I left, I’d flown in a
private plane around Mont Blanc to have lunch in France before heading back to the office for an
I skied in the winter, traveled Europe in the summer, and earned enough to pay for my master’s
degree outright. I met some wonderful people from all around the world – every colour, religion,
nationality – and made several friends that I still have today.
Honestly, this was just a lucky break that I jumped at which led to a life-long international adventure.
Connected & Fulfilled Mamas Overseas Private Group:
Justa Marketing: https://www.justamarketing.com/
On LinkedIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ronnaporter/